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A Grassroots People's Movement? Questions Swirl Around Unity08

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Unity08 (on the web at http://www.unity08.com) is a non-profit corporation that says it is "grassroots" and a "people's movement" to nominate its own candidates for president and vice president of the United States of America. As Unity08 puts it at http://www.unity08.com/believe:

"Unity08 intends to fix this broken system by electing a bipartisan "Unity Ticket" to the White House in '08 funded solely by small-dollar donations from everyday Americans. As a result the Unity08 President and Vice President will enter office not with favors owed to lobbyists and special interests but with a clear mandate from the American people to cooperate and provide courageous leadership on the most crucial, complex issues facing our country."

Unity 08 is becoming a hot topic as it continues to refuse to answer questions regarding its conduct. The most central of these questions are listed below. See http://irregulartimes.com/unity08unansweredquestions.html for complete documentation of the information contained within these questions.

1. Unity08 has in multiple places indicated that it is committed to funding solely by small-dollar donations of no more than $5,000 (see above). Yet its 4th Quarter 2006 report to the IRS shows a contribution of $23,545, with the contributor's name "Withheld."

Also in its lawsuit filed against the Federal Election Commission (which you may read for yourself at http://irregulartimes.com/unity08courtdoc1.pdf) on January 10, 2007 in DC District Court, Unity08 specifically requests exemption from any "obligation to register with the FEC, report its receipts or expenditures, or limit the amount of donations that it receives from contributors or the amount that it expends." Unity08 also states in the lawsuit that "it should accept donations from individuals, which may be in the form of loans, without limitation as to the amount." Unity08 further states in its lawsuit that were it able to be freed of FEC regulation, "Unity08 would seek and receive much larger donations and loans from willing contributors."

What explains this discrepancy?

2. In seeking an official Advisory Opinion on its correct designation as an organization (527 vs. PAC), Unity08 specifically stated that "The FEC will determine whether or not we are a political committee for FEC purposes. Obviously we will follow their opinion." On another page, Unity08 posed and answered its own question: "Would you and your candidates have to abide by FEC regulations? Of course." Yet when the FEC's advisory opinion was issued, informing Unity08 of the need to register as a PAC within 10 days, Unity08 ignored it for two months, and then filed a lawsuit against the FEC. (See http://www.unity08.com/about/governance and http://www.unity08.com/faq)

What explains this course of conduct?

3. In the summer of 2006, Unity08 pledged to update its financial disclosures twice a month. It broke this pledge. In the fall of 2006, Unity08 pledged to update its financial disclosures once a month. It also broke this pledge. On January 5, 2007, it pledged to update its list of donors on the webpage http://www.unity08.com/donors on January 31, 2007. It broke this pledge as well.

What explains this behavior?

4. On the main page of the Unity08 website, the organization asserts in boldface that "Unlike the other parties we don't have lobbyists bankrolling our work."

Yet Carolyn Tieger is co-chair of the Unity08 Rules Committee. Thomas C. Collier is the other co-chair of the Unity08 Rules Committee. Sayuri Yamada Matthews is a member of the Unity08 Rules Committee. Tieger is a leader of Porter Novelli, a registered lobbying firm. Collier and Yamada Matthews are registered lobbyists. In the lawsuit against the FEC, Tieger and Collier claim as plaintiffs that they have contributed money to Unity08 and would like to contribute "substantially more."

How do these facts square with Unity08's repeated vows to end the influence of lobbyists in politics?

5. Unity08 has strongly promoted its Clean Money Pledge. It challenges members of the public to sign on to a statement in which they commit to the following plan of action: "I will only vote for a presidential candidate who has raised more than half of his/her funds through small contributions of $250 or less." It further sent out letters to presidential candidates in the Republican and Democratic parties, challenging them to commit to take a majority of their funds from donations of $250 or less.

Yet only 0.35% of the $306,920 in Unity08's 4th quarter donations reported to the IRS came from donations of $250 or less.

6. Unity08's 2nd quarter statement lists $18,700 (a significant portion of all donations) as having been made in the year 2002. How does this mesh with the description of Unity08 in its May 30, 2006 press release as a "new grassroots organization" that has been "building for months," not years?

7. In its 4th Quarter 2006 report to the IRS Unity08 lists nine contribtors, seven recipients of expenditures, and Unity08 itself are listed as having the same business address. How is this possible?

8. Unity08 claimed on http://unitypetition.com/faq.php that its Unity Petition effort "is entirely volunteer, from top to bottom." Yet its 4th Quarter Report to the IRS (see http://irregulartimes.com/unity084q2006.pdf) shows payments of $1700 for "Unity Petition Outreach."

9. During the year of 2006, public relations professional Anya T. Harris referred to herself in a number of places on and off the Unity08 website as "Chief Operating Officer of Unity08″. During the same year, Steptoe and Johnson lawyer Thomas C. Collier referred to himself on the Unity08 website and in a lawsuit against the FEC (see http://irregulartimes.com/unity08courtdoc1.pdf for the filing). Yet there is no mention in the 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, or 4th quarter reports to the IRS (at least those available to the public as of 2/1/07) of Anya Harris or Tom Collier receiving compensation. What explains this discrepancy? How are Collier and Harris being compensated for their considerable services to Unity08?

10. Unity08 has commissioned a national poll with Princeton Survey Research (see http://www.unity08.com/pollsummary). Such polls are expensive. Yet there is no report of any payment to Princeton Survey Research for this poll.

Unity 08 refers to itself as a "grassroots organization" and a "people's movement." A grassroots organization responds to the grassroots. A people's movement responds to the people within it. Let's see whether Unity08 answers these questions - or continues to ignore them.
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Jim Cook is a writer for Irregular Times, a website for news about the intersection of politics, religion, credulity. A resident of Columbus, Ohio, he really wishes that Deborah Pryce were not his representative in Congress.

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A Grassroots People's Movement? Questions Swirl Around Unity08